By Lloyd Dunkelberger LEDGER TALLAHASSEE BUREAU
Published: Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 11:08 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE | Reversing a quarter-century of state growth management policy, Gov. Rick Scott quietly signed a bill into law Thursday that will change the way local cities and counties deal with new development.
It was one of 48 bills that Scott signed late Thursday, with many of the measures, like the growth management law, signaling dramatic shifts in state programs with potentially far-reaching impacts on everyday life in Florida.
Environmental groups had urged Scott to veto the growth management bill (HB 7207), arguing it could lead to more gridlock and could allow local communities to approve new development without adequate roads, schools and other resources to support it.
The law largely eliminates state oversight of local planning decisions and raises barriers for citizens who seek to challenge development decisions. And it eases the requirement — known as concurrency — that requires new developments have adequate roads and infrastructure before they proceed.
“This is the end of meaningful state involvement in local planning decisions in Florida,” said Janet Bowman, a lobbyist with the Florida chapter of the Nature Conservancy.
But Scott and other supporters contended the measure, which rewrote Florida’s 1985 growth management law, would properly limit the state’s role in local growth decisions, while helping stimulate economic activity in the state.
The measure also reflects Scott’s broader goal of dismantling the state’s major land-planning agency, the Department of Community Affairs, which he had called a “job killer,” and shifting its duties to other state agencies and local governments.
Environmental groups and former Gov. Bob Graham had asked Scott to veto the bill, while it was supported by major business lobbying groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, as well as associations representing Florida’s cities and counties.
In another major policy shift, Scott signed two bills (HB 7107 and HB 7109) that will direct the bulk of Florida’s Medicaid recipients into managed-care plans, subject federal approval.
Like the growth management bill, Scott’s support for the Medicaid overhaul is no surprise because he and other Republican leaders have been looking for ways to curb the growing cost of the program, which represents roughly a third of the state’s annual budget.
The new managed-care system, which would expand on existing programs now in use in the Jacksonville area and Broward County, would be phased in, beginning with a mandatory managed-care program for long-term-care seniors in July 2012 and eventually covering most Medicaid groups, including low-income women and children, by October 2014.
The Medicaid program, which will expand the use of HMOs and other managed-care options, was opposed by the Democrats, who argued that efforts to curb costs could result in inadequate medical care for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
In other bill action on Thursday, Scott approved:
HB 155, the so-called “Glocks and docs” bill, that would restrict discussions between doctors and their patients about gun ownership. It was a watered-down version of a tougher measure sought by the National Rifle Association that wanted to penalize doctors who questioned their patients about gun ownership.
HB 97, banning abortion coverage from policies sold through health-insurance exchanges — a type of insurance marketplace that is scheduled to start operating in 2014 as part of last year’s federal health law.
HB 1193, which says people cannot be compelled to buy health insurance, except in limited circumstances, which is a response to the new federal health care law that will mandate that coverage beginning in 2014.
HB 965, expanding the use of state vouchers provided to disabled students under the John McKay scholarship program. The measure increases the number of conditions for qualifying students.
HB 1331, making it easier for students in low-performing schools to take advantage of vouchers through the Opportunity Scholarship program.